Members from the Rotary Club of Ingleburn first visited EMAE in 2006 and started a connection that, over 14 years, has seen the construction of four new classrooms and buildings.
The story actually started in April 2004 when five members from the Rotary Club of Ingleburn visited Port Vila as part of a Rotary program called FAIM – First Avenue in Motion. They went to assist in the building of a new Eye Clinic at the Port Vila Hospital. Their role was to help cement render the clinic over a period of three weeks.
The guys from the Rotary Club of Ingleburn had never done this type of work before and it was very back-breaking. Fortunately, the General Manager of the hospital introduced them to her husband, John Matariki, who had some mates who were able to help out.
John was a chief on EMAE Island which is 100kms from Port Vila. He told them about the island and that work had stopped on a partly started double classroom due to lack of funds. He asked them if they could help, and gave an open invitation for them to visit EMAE Island.
The project took a little longer than expected as Easter fell during the time they were in Port Vila. As all work stopped for about 4 days, they took the opportunity to relax and enjoy the local attractions.
Glen was missing from the dinner above as he had to return home early as he had a very seriously infected leg. The flies were a major concern.
With the project completed with the help of locals, the members of the Rotary Club of Ingleburn returned home.
In 2006, Reg Robinson and Trevor Pilley were able to take up the invitation from John and travelled to EMAE Island which was the start of a long relationship between the island and our club.
EMAE Island is 100kms from Port Vila in the Shepherd Islands; a 20-minute plane ride. The island is 10km long and 5km wide. The island has a population of 750-800 residents of which approximately 450-500 are children. They live in 7 separate villages and the economy of the island is based on subsistence agriculture
On arrival, Reg and Trevor noted that Nofo School consisted of two government buildings that were constructed from rough local timber and thatch. Inside were two regular sized classrooms, three small classrooms and a storage room the size of a closet that was the Headmaster’s Office. The classrooms were dirty and dark grey with the paint peeling off – sad places for the students in Years 1 to 8 to be learning. Additional classes were also held in a tin shed that measured 5 metres by 4 metres. The roof was missing sheets of galvanised iron, palm tree fronds and had holes in it.
A double classroom had been started by the community. The Chiefs and local council were doing it as there was no help in sight from the capital (government). They had run out of money and needed help. They asked Reg and Trevor if the Rotary Club of Ingleburn could help, and so started a journey that 14 years later still continues
The building, with funds from the Rotary Club of Ingleburn and grants together with help from club members, was completed in late 2008. Club members, Ken Barnard and Wazza Purcell, attended the opening ceremony in November 2008. Whenever any club members stayed on EMAE Island, they stayed in the Principal’s home. No-one could ever convince the Principal and his family not to go; it was their way of saying ‘thank you’.
After the Opening Ceremony for the first double classroom in November 2008, the School Council asked the club if they could fund an administration, library and storeroom block. The club agreed, and work started in May 2009 on the 26 meters by 8 meters wide building. It took two days just to hand make and pour the slab floor. The workers were community volunteers.
During this time multiple trips were made by members of Ingleburn Rotary, friends, relatives and partners to EMAE Island. Funds were raised through a range of fundraising activities, District grants and RAWCS – Rotary Australia World Community Service.
The Chief, John Matariki, who in 2004 had asked members of Ingleburn Rotary to visit EMAE island, died during the construction of the building. He was only 52 years of age. At the emotional opening ceremony, in December 2012, the building was named in his honour with Rotarians Reg Robinson and Trevor Pilley unveiling the plaque.
The school was now able to offer educational opportunities to students in Years 9 and 10. This in turn would allow the students a pathway to go on to Years 11 and 12 if their parents had access to money from wealthy relatives as there is no income on the island; it is a totally subsistent agricultural economy.
How great does it look!!
Latest pictures of the project our club has been working on for a long time now – helping the people of EMAE Island to build a school and resource it so that the children will now have a Year 10 education available without leaving the island.
We are so very excited and happy for the EMAE people.